On Murder (and other necessary business decisions)

kill your darlingsToday’s post is short, so go brew a cuppa and come back to read. By the time your K-cup machine or French Press has done its thing, you’ll be done with your reading here. We’re talking about murder today.

There are an inordinate number of conversations we have, in both business and life, that are designed to conjure-up ideas. We sit around and birth ideas like rodents, crapping out concept spawn like it’s a numbers game. If only half survive, HEYO! It’s a win.

But there’s value in destruction as well. Merciless killing. Murder.

In the process of putting together the first half of my book – yeah, that one I’m being paid to write – I sat and looked at over 10,000 words and…killed them. A big ass highlight-and-delete action. And nothing had ever felt so good. We focus so much on quantity, word count, deadlines – that we forget the inherent value in ruthlessly murdering something we’ve created (and on occasion, in cold blood).

There’s more than 10,000 words in my life that need some killing off, mostly to make room for things that are worthwhile. My business is the same way. Now, to figure out the means. Hachet, .45 caliber, Chinese throwing stars, quarterstaff or dagger – they need to go and it won’t be pretty. But here’s the deciding factor: I can see everything I want and need standing right there behind all of these things that need to go. The problem is that all these shitty, obstructive and demanding things are keeping me from getting a clear line of sight the the things I hold most dear. And that’s gotta stop.

I can see them through the sea of quantity (not quality), excuses, delays, Pick Mes, Hey Yous and I Hate These, so I think it’s best to mow them own like something out of a Michael Bay flick and get on with the business of life and business the way I’d rather have them…instead of the way I’ve let them become. And if I spent more time on killing things off actively then letting them die on the vine, well, that’s energy well-spent.

Kill, kill, kill.

(coffee’s ready)

30 replies
  1. Peter Wright
    Peter Wright says:

    Why stop at just killing words we have written, why not continue the culling exercise, by going through all the words we receive from others every day and think we should read?

    Then take it further through all the stuff we are involved in  on the Social Media sites.

    If we really take this killing spree of yours seriously, think how simple our lives would be.

    Reply
  2. David Reimer
    David Reimer says:

    Those murders you write about (idea assassination?) are a great parallel for one of the critical gaps between start-ups or established companies that succeed versus those that fail. The problem is almost never the quantity of cool ideas or the potential paths a company COULD go.  The problem is cutting through the quantity to seize that one core truth that might just rock the world.

    Good luck with your continued writing — and selective killing sprees.

    Reply
  3. Michael
    Michael says:

    From Things About Marketing you learned from Stevie Ray Vaughn to quoting Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” (Kill, kill, kill.).  Yes, I may have that one on vinyl, too. Right next to my unsealed John Denver’s Greatest Hits LP.   ~Michael

    Reply
  4. Nick Armstrong
    Nick Armstrong says:

    Yes. Absolutely. Even “good” ideas can get in the way of great ideas; so slay everything mercilessly until you get down to the best ones.

    A moleskine is just a fancy obituary for good ideas. Implementation is the trick.

    Reply
  5. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

    G’Day Erika,
    Years and years ago my main contribution to the world of words was contributing a Jazz column in a weekly magazine. The Features Editor always said, “edit your own work mercilessly.” It was excellent advice.

    Dare I say, that as I sit here and read all the blog posts and stuff that the ether rains on me, I wish for one thing above all else: that all the writers who send me stuff had worked for that same Features Editor.

    What’s 10000 words compared with the guts it took to murder them? After all, words are merely carriages for meaning .

    Keep churnin’ ’em out, Erika.

    Regards

    Leon

    Reply
  6. Leon Noone
    Leon Noone says:

    G’Day Erika,
    Years and years ago my main contribution to the world of words was contributing a Jazz column in a weekly magazine. The Features Editor always said, “edit your own work mercilessly.” It was excellent advice.

    Dare I say, that as I sit here and read all the blog posts and stuff that the ether rains on me, I wish for one thing above all else: that all the writers who send me stuff had worked for that same Features Editor.

    What’s 10000 words compared with the guts it took to murder them? After all, words are merely carriages for meaning .

    Keep churnin’ ’em out, Erika.

    Regards

    Leon

    Reply
  7. Motivational Smart Ass
    Motivational Smart Ass says:

    Great post and reminder to us all! Reminds me of one of my favorite Bruce Lee quotes which I try to keep in mind (but often forget about until things start to get piled real high around…):  “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” So much unessential, so much to be hacked…

    P.S. I vote for the throwing stars. Always.

    Reply
  8. Michele Bunn
    Michele Bunn says:

    In a course I recently took on Marketing Writing, we heard this quote: 

    “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing
    left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” ~ Antoine de
    Saint-Exupéry  
    Seems like license to kill to me!  Great post – now I’m getting my coffee.

    Reply
  9. Emily Suess
    Emily Suess says:

    I have the perfect Onion T-shirt for my next kill session. There’s this cute little fur ball on the front with the caption, “Kitten thinks of nothing but murder all day.” Kitten is a badass.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    From my blog post, [6 rules of writing]: ” I’ve noticed over the years that when I come up with a phrase that I’m sure will cause my readers to decide I’m brilliant, it will have to be cut in the end. Maybe I fall in love with a clever concept and try to shoehorn the rest of my text around it. Then everything else becomes awkward and out-of-place.” As you’ve pointed out, the same thing can happen in the rest of our lives. Just about anything is dispensable if we look at it honestly.

    Reply
    • The Redhead
      The Redhead says:

      Brilliantly stated, Claire. Simply brilliant. I wrote a post once on Four Indispensable Things and those 4 items? Yeah, I stick by ’em. Most everything else gets chucked – and regularly.

      Reply
  11. J.D. Meier
    J.D. Meier says:

    I’m going to have to recommend Nunchucks.  

    While Chinese throwing stars are sweet, Nunchucks will get you extra style points, and we all know it’s about the experience.

    Reply
  12. Kneale Mann
    Kneale Mann says:

    Just finished doing that. And if any of the detractors make one final attempt to kill me like a bad thriller where the hero needs to shoot the villain three times, my holster is open and ready.

    Time to get out of our own way and stop letting the time suck rule the horizon.Kill Kill Kill. Shuddup. Shuddup. Suddup. 

    Reply

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